Fast Facts: Tuna Fishing in Little Italy

SAN DIEGO一 Walking through Little Italy, located in Downtown San Diego, there is a series of murals hung on walls and fences depicting the history of fishing and canaries in Little Italy.

The murals are painted with bright colors and soft lines that give a simplistic view of the fishing industry throughout the 20th century.

The murals take you step-by-step beginning with a 1900 Italian fishing boat looking for tuna off the coast of San Diego to the late 1950’s modern purse seiner that began to replace bait boats in the area.

In 2018 the Log wrote an article about San Diego, and the birth of tuna fisheries. In response to that article, a gentleman reached out and asked about the Italian and Sicilian fishermen that participated in the industry.

In the 2018 article, it was noted that the fishing industry in San Diego can be traced back to 1903 when a sardine packer in San Pedro began canning albacore and the positive feedback from consumers led to fishing fleets in San Diego and San Pedro.

The industry became popular with consumers and became the third-largest industry in San Diego. By the mid-1930s canneries employed over 1,000 people.

By the 1920s, Little Italy had attracted over 6,000 Italian families to the area because of the rising fishing and cannery industry.

“In the ensuing half-century, the city would earn its title as the ‘Tuna Capital of the World.’ By the 1960s, San Diego’s third-largest industry would be tuna, preceded only by the Navy and aerospace,” a blog post on the San Diego Food System Alliance website stated. “Catching, canning, and marketing of tuna would employ up to 40,000 San Diegans.”

By 1970 there were a series of environmental concerns and consequential environmental regulations placed on the industry and rising costs caused a decline in the west coast fishing industry, according to the Little Italy San Diego website.

Around the same time, 35 percent of Little Italy was demolished because of construction for the Interstate-5 freeway limiting Little Italy to a few blocks.

The small heritage town bounced back in recent years with a surge of new restaurants and businesses that are nestled next to traditional family-owned businesses.


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